Black Sticks men remain in final contention

Last updated 07:55 15/03/2013

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New Zealand men's hockey team coach Colin Batch is demanding improvements to their turnover rate in tomorrow's must-win match against Australia at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

The Black Sticks remain a chance to defend their title in Ipoh after defeating India 2-0 last night, their second win in succession after opening with two losses.

Moving to six points, world No 6 New Zealand, missing a number of experienced players, will battle second-ranked Australia (eight points) in a winner-take-all match that will decide at least one finalist.

New Zealand must win the match to advance, though Australia could lose and still make the final if Malaysia, who are also on eight points, lose to India.

New Zealand are the only other team that can crash the final match party. South Korea and Pakistan sit on four points and India three.

Batch described the performance against India as "gusty" but said improvements would be required against the Australians tomorrow (11.05pm NZT).

"It was another pleasing outcome. We are building the depth within this group and trying to improve with every game we play," he said.

"We had a couple of opportunities that we could have put away in the first half, but it was not to be. What was pleasing is we didn’t have a lull at the start of the second half, we came back on hungry and scored two goals.

"We lost possession and there was quite a lot of turnover ball late in the second half, so we will review this and look at how it can be improved going forward."

In a scoreless first half, the Black Sticks were hungry for the ball and untroubled in defence, but neither team created many opportunities.

New Zealand made it count in the second half when Andy Hayward clocked up his third goal of the series from a penalty corner drag flick which went low to the goalkeeper's right in the 40th minute.

The Kiwis second goal came in the 53rd minute when the initial attempt by Hayward was blocked by Indian goalkeeper Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh, but new Black Stick Cory Bennett picked up the rebound, evaded an Indian defender and sent a reverse stick hit crashing in the goal for a 2-0 lead, his second goal in as many matches.

Goal keeper Hamish McGregor was noted as a standout player and the midfield trio - Arun Panchia, Marcus Child and Blair Hilton - continued to impress the New Zealand coaches.

In the earlier match, Australia and South Korea drew 3-3, while hosts Malaysia and Pakistan drew 2-2 in the later game.

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